To Rich McKay: Do The Right Thing

And by that, I mean find a way to get John Abraham here in Atlanta. And as I see it the simplest way is to give the Jets what they want. And what is that?

A settled quarterback position. As I see it, this is the holdout. Let’s take this issue from the Jets perspective. They may have acquired Patrick Ramsey this past week, but their compensation sent to Washington definitely indicates how much stock they put in him. He’s there only to be a backup to another veteran, or keep the seat warm for a rookie for a few games before they yank on the leash.

In the Jets eyes, they see their best options at quarterback as being Matt Leinart or Matt Schaub. No, Vince Young and Jay Cutler are not in the equation. Other teams may be high on them, but not the Jets. Do I know this for a fact? No, but I have an extremely strong gut feeling.

So they ask for a first round pick in the simplest way of acquiring enough ammo to be able to move up in the draft and get Leinart. That involves leapfrogging the Tennessee Titans, who are sitting pretty right now with the strong possibility Leinart falls to them at No. 3. Their best trade option as it stands is the New Orleans Saints, who have a relatively settled QB position with Drew Brees now and are targetting a player like Mario Williams, A.J. Hawk, or D’Brickashaw Ferguson with their top pick. They’d happily trade down a few spots and take whomever is still available, with the added benefit of acquiring another early draft pick to use on another top prospect.

Option 2 of course is to take Matt Schaub. It’s interesting to see Schaub put in the same class as Leinart. I wouldn’t do it, but I can understand why others might. I’m not 100% sold on Schaub’s potential to lead a team to a Super Bowl ring, but I am definitely impressed enough to believe it possible, and I can definitely understand if a team is more impressed with him than say players like Cutler or Young. The Jets get Schaub, he competes with Ramsey for the starting spot. Since both he and Ramsey have contracts that expire at the end of 2006, if it doesn’t work out, the Jets aren’t forced to stick with it for a long time as they would be with a rookie.

I like Schaub, and under normal circumstances I would say we should not part ways with him. Looking around the league, it’s a very big gamble to not have a competent backup quarterback. We suffered in 2003, and nobody wants that to happen again. But at the same time, when you are dealing with a player the caliber of John Abraham, I don’t consider those normal circumstances.

This is how I justify it: Schaub is very unlikely to be the starting quarterback in Atlanta in 2006, 2007, or beyond. That would frankly come down to Michael Vick dying, or getting hurt and Schaub pulling a Tom Brady-impression and leading this team to a Super Bowl, or Vick have a meltdown that would make Kordell Stewart’s head spin. When you deal in likelihoods, those are next to impossible in my mind. On the other hand, you have a player like Abraham. Abraham, a 4-time Pro Bowler at age 28 (in May), may not exactly be a young guy, but if Strahan and Jason Taylor are indicators, he can still be a Pro Bowl-level producer until his 32nd birthday and beyond. So, in my mind, that means you have not only a starter for another 4-5 years, but a guy that can be a Pro Bowler for another 4-5 years.

When you weigh it that way, at least you should be able to understand my willingness to part ways with Mr. Schaub and why I think McKay is making a huge mistake by not taking this risk.

Also consider that a player like Billy Volek is available. With the Titans poised to draft a QB in Round 1 (unlike the Jets, they’d happily “settle” for Young if Leinart is gone), he’s going to be out of a job soon. The Falcons went hard after Volek in 2004, before they went after Brees, but ultimately settled on Schaub. If it means giving up our 5th round choice or a conditional pick in 2007, then I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

What about someone like Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Brian Griese, or Joey Harrington? I know, not exactly inspiring names, but all are starters and with exception to Harrington, all have led teams to the playoffs as starters, which in my opinion is more than enough qualification to be a benchwarmer. Harrington makes the list because of his experience in the offense, as he is the player that is the least of a square peg. What about Jay Fiedler, Tommy Maddox, Tony Banks, or Jeff Blake? All are playoff-experienced quarterbacks, again something that I think looks very good on a resume to be a benchwarmer. Mike McMahon, Shane Matthews, Jamie Martin, or trading for Ramsey would be last resorts.

But the bottom line is the Falcons need to strike while the iron is hot. The availability of some of those names isn’t going to be forever, and if the Falcons can pull a trade sending Schaub and a 2nd rounder to New York, and grab Abraham and then find a competent backup to Vick by the end of the week, it would be a coup.

I would lose a lot of confidence in McKay if we lose out on a player that his presence along instantly upgrades our defense from bad to scary, because we opted to keep a guy that is probably not going to be with the team next year.

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Aaron Freeman
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